During yesterday's testimony in the Kelly Thomas murder trial, a retired FBI supervising special agent and tactical police training expert told jurors that the 37-year-old homeless man had a right to use force to defend himself against two Fullerton police officers who'd essentially converted themselves into heavily armed thugs with badges.
John Wilson, who spent 60 hours studying the gruesome, July 2011, police attack on an unarmed Thomas, said that officer Manuel Ramos began the minor encounter unnecessarily by immediately taking out his baton, swinging it in both hands and poking it at the victim, who hadn't been physically threatening.
But, according to Wilson, the most unprofessional moment prior to the killing occurred when Ramos mocked the schizophrenia-addled Thomas as stupid, dramatically put on gloves as he towered over him and said, "Now, you see my fists? They're getting ready to fuck you up."
District Attorney Tony Rackauckas played related portions of a surveillance tape of the brutality and, over Ramos defense lawyer John Barnett's incessant objections, asked Wilson if he considered the cop conduct appropriate under the circumstances.
"Clearly, no," replied the 26-year FBI veteran, who at one point served on the U.S. Attorney General's protection detail in Washington, D.C. "I have problems with everything that happened after Ramos put the gloves on."
Barnett and Michael Schwartz--the attorney for the other cop on trial, Jay Cicinelli--spent hours trying to trip the unflappable Wilson. For example, they repeatedly mocked the witness as clueless about the demands of "street cops" and that, even though he'd worked narcotics and bank robbery details at the FBI, he'd never had to employ a Taser gun or walk a beat.
Barnett grew incredulous that Wilson refused to back off his expert opinion that when the police began to attack, Thomas had a right to defend himself, including by using lethal force to repel unlawful, violent cop abuse.
The Ramos/Cicinelli loyalists (including off-duty cops) that pack one side of Judge William R. Froeberg's Santa Ana courtroom each day responded by shaking their heads and hissing.
What impact the testimony and defense moves are having on jurors is unknown.
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Orange County juries historically have given police officers carte blanche to use deadly force even against unarmed citizens and to lie in official reports that coverup police corruption.